Najaf, Asharq Al-Awsat- Analysts say that the next step to be taken by Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr will be a crucial one if he were to ensure his political survival, particularly after forcing the militia of his al-Mahdi army to stay away from the streets of Iraq. Meanwhile, his spokesman Salah al-Ubaydi said that the Sadri trend is growing on a daily basis.
Since the start of US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the slogan raised by al-Mahdi army focused on the expulsion of US forces from Iraq. After fixing 2011 as the likely year for the withdrawal of the US forces from Iraq, it seems that al-Sadr will have to find another issue that can give his movement the necessary strength and cohesion. Al-Sadr has effectively frozen the al-Mahdi army after leading two rebellions against the US forces in 2004 and shifted his attention to nurturing the cultural arm of his movement. He has also decided that his movement will not run for the upcoming local elections under the umbrella of the Sadri Trend. Instead, the Sadrists will join independent electoral groups.
According to Reuters, this is perhaps the means that can secure his political survival without giving legitimacy to the elections which will be held at a time when the US forces are still deployed in the country. Nonetheless, failure to participate might curb the influence of the Sadri Trend in the local councils whose power is consistently growing. It will also deprive him of the momentum that he needs in the general elections due to be held at the end of 2009.
Spokesman for the Sadri Trend, Salah al-Ubaydi, told the Asharq Al-Awsat that the Sadri Trend is not a “political party consisting of figures that could change their political line or leave one political party to join another.” He said that the Sadri Trend is a popular movement which is growing daily. Al-Ubaydi added that the “call by the al-Kufah Mosque Imam to refer to the voters’ registration centers has boosted the registration from200,000 to well over two million persons. This explains that the Sadri Trend still exists and that its approach to the activities it performs is the approach of the opposition and armed resistance.
However, the approach has now shifted to another style – the style of waiting for the results of the negotiations on the Iraqi-US agreement. Al-Ubaydi said that if the “Iraqi political parties do not reach an agreement with the Americans, we will have to review our position. We will discuss the kind of agreement reached and the results of the negotiations. We will surely give our views, and we will voice our support of the Iraqi government if it insisted on the departure the occupiers from our country. This is our condition. We will also look into the agreement in terms of whether it will be useful to the Iraqi society or not. We are not saying that we are accepting the agreement. We could give a period of grace of one to two years for the implementation of the agreement, if this is the useful thing to do.”
Asked about the inaction which characterizes the Sadri bloc in the Iraqi parliament, the spokesman for the Sadri Trend said that the “reason for the inaction of the Sadri bloc is that it has no interests like the other blocs which have a specific number of cabinet portfolios or senior posts in the government. However, we made a condition which was difficult for the other parties of the parliamentary blocs to accept, namely, the departure of the occupiers. Asked about participation in the upcoming elections, al-Ubaydi said that the “Sadri Trend will support all the independent lists in which professional candidates and technocrats will run.” He added that the “persons in the Sadri Trend who wish to run for the elections should participate in the independent lists and should be figures of high stature in their own community. However, persons in the Sadri Trend will not participate in the election lists that take into account courtesies and consist of public figures that have a bleak history in their own country.”